A year ago today… I was waking up somewhere frightening.

I looked at the date earlier realising where I was exactly a year ago today. I don’t mind talking about it. I deserved what happened because I wasn’t prepared to listen to anyone else. I tried to force what I wanted on someone else when they didn’t want to agree with me. I didn’t realise what a cow I was being for a long time. I was an awful person who needed to be taught a lesson. A year ago today I was about to start my first day of a six month sentence, which would typically mean three months in prison and the remainder “on licence”. Walking into that environment changed me: I saw things that were upsetting. I met people there who had really long sentences; some were there for life. Others were in and out constantly as if prison had a revolving door. The first morning, I was completely distressed. I remember not being able to settle the night that I arrived there. It had been the hottest day of the year and the prison van was extremely unpleasant. It was like travelling to hell in that heat and that was made more hellish by the red tinted windows. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to last 12 weeks in that environment. In the end I only spent 27 days in there because I got out on appeal due to legal representation submitting an appeal on the basis that, due to my autism, prison was the wrong sentence option.

I didn’t know the effects that the experience would have on me back then. I wasn’t feeling affected after being released due to being so glad to be free. The world outside those four walls seems completely new when you come out of there. I could notice small things I previously didn’t see in familiar locations I had regularly visited. Everything just seemed so big and overwhelming when I first set foot out of the court that granted my release. I was more sociable inside because I had to be as we didn’t have the internet to communicate. There was no access to any of those luxuries. I don’t know where outsiders get the idea that prisoners have loads of privileges such as games consoles and so on. That isn’t true. We had a television but we had to pay 20p a day from the money we got for either work or completing some form of educational course. We had a gym but very limited usage. We could only go there if the guards were available to take us. That was rare because the male side of the prison was allocated more gym time than us due to kicking off if they didn’t get things.

I’m not ashamed of having done some time. I am tougher than I was before I went in there. That doesn’t mean I’m in any ways hard. I couldn’t physically fight but I have a thicker skin in some respects.